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Millennials and Zoomers Aren’t Drinking Wine. A New Report Says the Industry Needs to Do More to Attract Them.

For American wines, the only sector of growth is with those over the age of 60.

Wine bottles on a shelf Unsplash

Like wine itself, those drinking it are a bit aged.

The only growth area for American wine is currently with consumers over the age of 60, with the most growth happening among 70-to-80-year-olds, according to a new report cited in The New York Times. That’s a concerning stat for the entire industry, which will need to target younger drinkers if it wants to enjoy a prosperous future.

“State of the US Wine Industry 2023” notes that American producers are missing out on a massive market because of their poor marketing toward younger generations and their inability to make wines within a younger person’s budget. Rob McMillan, the report’s author, has been saying a version of this for years, but the industry has been slow to take his advice.

“It’s worse than I thought,” he told the Times. “I thought we would have made some progress with under-60s. I’ve been talking about this problem for seven years and we still haven’t reacted.”

In fact, those under 60 are less interested in buying wine now than they were in 2007, McMillan said. Especially in recent years, they have many more alcoholic options to turn to, including craft beers and cocktails, hard seltzers and kombuchas. Plus, there’s the fact that many more young people are toying with a sober-curious lifestyle, forgoing alcohol completely in favor of more straitlaced beverages.

Still, it’s not a complete wash for the wine industry, with premium wines showing “excellent growth and returns.” (“Premium wines” typically encompass bottles that sell for $15 or more.) And young consumers certainly have the money to spend on wine if they so please: A report from Bain & Company notes that the luxury market is seeing growth thanks in part to spending by Millennials and Generation Z.

But even so, McMillan is concerned that a failure to get young people into the wine industry through lower-priced bottles will ultimately catch up with even the higher-end offerings. “There has never been a wider gulf between the success of the production side of the wine business and that of the premium side,” his report says. “Those issues impacting lower-priced wine will eventually impact premium producers too if nothing alters the current consumer trajectory.”

So he recommends that wine producers do a better job of marketing to this younger cohort, emphasizing sustainability, social responsibility and health and wellness. Until they do, the world of American wine might remain an older person’s game.

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